Hey, everyone! This entry is a little bit different because it’s posting on Erin’s birthday! Erin is the founder of Sharon the Light, the group for which I am raising money this month, so if you’ve been thinking about donating, today would be a really great day to do so. Just click on the link below! And happy, happy birthday, Miss E–the world is a brighter place because you’re in it (see what I did there, with the light pun?).
Below is the next bit of my novella, Dropping Slow, which I am posting serially during the month of June, as part of the Every Single Day Challenge to raise money for Sharon the Light. If you’re enjoying the story, please feel free to donate via my Crowdrise page ($10 minimum donation) or directly, at this link (no minimum donation). Everyone who donates will receive an ebook copy of Dropping Slow, once it’s all posted (if you donate directly, please leave a comment to let me know!).
For the first three days they sleep in Javi’s bed, but the realities of Linea’s back and her need of a firmer mattress send her back to her own room. Tace wracks her brain but can’t remember whether Javi prefers to sleep alone or not; she remembers waking up with him wrapped around her on more than one morning, remembers that he runs warm, but she can’t remember how many mornings she’d woken up a touch too hot and wrapped in all his limbs. This juxtaposition of facts and their simultaneous lack sends her spiraling until she’s standing in her own room for the first time since she’d knocked on the front door.
She stares, then kicks the door shut and sits on the floor. Nothing has changed; she’d planned to come back on leave, once she earned enough time to make the long trip worthwhile. The bed is made with a blue comforter and white pillows. The shelves have books on them, some pictures. There is a high, floor to ceiling window along one wall that faces out onto a tree, and the drapery is light blue and sheer. The floor is a light wood, a sky-colored rag rug is the only thing covering it. There’s a dresser next to her, end tables on either side of the bed.
She fumbles her handheld out of her pocket, takes a blurry photo, sends it to Trini with no message.
Is that your room? Trini sends back. What’s wrong, do you not remember it?
I don’t like blue anymore, she sends back; her hands are shaking and she drops the handheld, stares at all the blue and all the light and forces her breathing slower, makes herself follow the grain of the wood floor with her eyes and fingers until the panic wears off.
The handheld is buzzing. When she picks it up, there’s a crack across the screen and a message from her sister, Well, quit freaking out and go shopping, Tace.
“This is the one you had when you left,” Javi says. He turns Tace’s handheld over and over in his hands, peering at it. “It’s antique. It practically runs on gears.”
“You write with ink,” Linea says. She’s in the kitchen. Javi is at the table. Tace is lying on their couch because she has a headache. She hasn’t mentioned it’s from crying in her room over the stupid crack in her elderly comm device.
“They gave it back to me,” she says. “You turn everything in when you report–we were. Wired, so. They gave it back when I left. It still worked.” She remembered how to use most of it, and it was familiar enough that she could poke at it until the things she forgot went back into her brain.
First Ardriyne, she realizes, could probably afford to get herself wired again if she wanted. The thought of it makes her uneasy.
“I want new … whatsis. On the bed. Covers,” she says. “And the window.”
“So we’re going into town, then,” says Linea. “An adventure.”
Formes is bigger than she remembers, which is surprisingly comforting–it reminds her of the station, huge and imposing and lacking windows–until they get inside and see the crowds.
“Oh, gods, Festival Week sales, I forgot,” groans Javi. Tace grabs Lin’s hand; Lin smiles and squeezes Tace’s hand without looking at her as they make their way to the linens section.
It’s not the physical crush of people so much–she’s used to close quarters, and she finds herself straightening into Lieutenant Flogyston’s posture even as she keeps hold of Lin’s hand–but the noise batters at her. The Corps base was mostly silent, of course. Holtzdorrne House was also quiet–even the party had been, comparatively, muted. The roaring ebb and flow of noise now startles her. People part for them–whether because of Javi’s looming figure, the security agent in front of them, or Tace’s military posture she doesn’t know–but the sound does not.
They make it to bedding, and Lin lets go of her hand to show her patterns in a book: dots and stripes, plaids, solids, heathered solids and hatchmarked solids, all of it underscored with the noise of people shopping, the press and jostle of people moving in the aisles. Finally Tace reaches out to a swatch of forest green fabric, dark and peaceful. She wishes she could climb into it, a green wormhole, like a girl in a story, and get away from the noise.
“This one,” she says; her voice is shaking and her hand trembles. This was a mistake, she’s so stupid–this should have been done next week, not during Festival Week the same day she already had a panic attack, she never thinks anything through and Javi and Lin will have to take her home, and her bedroom will still be blue and on top of it she’ll look so stupid—
Javi’s hands are on her shoulders, heavy and warm. Lin leans closer, gets into her space, and asks, “Tace? You okay?”
Despite herself, she starts to cry, which she never used to do in public or anywhere else–she thought she was done with this sort of thing–and Javi gets his arms around her as Lin drops the swatch book on the display bed. They move so they’re a wall around her. The two security agents shift a bit to face the crowds.
“Feel your feet in your shoes,” Javi whispers to her.
“IWT trick. Feel your feet in your shoes. Pay attention to it. Can you feel the seams?”
She focuses on her feet with difficulty–her brain would like to circle around and around the words stupid and mistake like a ferret. She wiggles her toes; she’s not wearing socks, so she can feel the seams of her shoes, the tongue and the sole of it, sticking to her skin a little.
Lin puts a hand on her cheek, gentle and smelling of their lemon verbena dish soap. “You and Javi head home, love, and I’ll get the linens, okay? All in that green. Maybe a couple accents, but nothing wild.”
“Just no blue,” she manages.
“No blue. Got it. I’ll see you later. I love you,” she says to Tace, then, “I love you,” to Javi.
Javi keeps an arm around her, blocking her from the crowd and the noise, as they make their way out of the store and into the street. The car pulls up and he bundles her into it, lets the driver know where they’re going. Tace wipes her face as best she can on her sleeve and says, “I’m sorry.”
“Why? I hate Formes, too.” He grins crookedly at her.
“Did I know that? That you hated it?” she asks, and his grin goes crookeder when he answers, though his voice is still cheerful.
“It drove you nuts how much I complained whenever we went.”
Copyright 2017 by Laura E. Price. Feel free to link to this story–signal boosting is welcome!–but please don’t reproduce it without permission.